Question: I’m questioning the premise of [your TBC Notes 5/15] “NBC’s A.D.: The Bible Continues...[to be contaminated by Hollywood].” We all know that whenever anything is produced for TV or movies, it will be dramatized. That’s just a fact, and how it works. So...when people say things like [you did], are they basically saying that no TV show or movie should ever be made about Jesus or the Bible? It seems to me that’s the conclusion we’d have to come to, if [as you said] we cannot add anything at all that our imaginations come up with or that [might] have happened….When we…read the Bible or study it as a group, don’t we often come up with what…may have happened “between the lines”?...We might paraphrase certain things…. Aren’t there some things that we simply have to conclude from what makes sense or could have happened in context?...The Bible doesn’t give us every detail of what happened and what was said or thought by various people….Are we supposed to…never think any further or deeper into things, never make any speculations or suppositions?... Should stories from the Bible never be portrayed on film?
Response: Before I respond to your questions specifically, let’s consider something very basic. We need to start with one’s view of the Bible based upon its claims. It claims to be God’s words, not man’s. The words were given by God through the Holy Spirit and written down by the prophets of God (2 Peter:1:20-21; Luke:1:68-70). The objective of the reader is to understand what the Author of the Bible (God) is communicating. If man adds to the Scriptures his own thoughts or what he imagines, he has corrupted the Bible (whether intentionally or not). Mixing Scripture with man’s thoughts further exacerbates the problem of our understanding what God has supernaturally communicated through His Holy Spirit.
It is impossible to translate the Bible as a theatrical motion picture without adding to the Scriptures, which is forbidden according to Proverbs:30:6 and Revelation:22:18-19. All movies, biblical or otherwise, begin with a screenplay that is created by one or more persons. The screenplay includes story continuity, character establishment and development, dialogue, production value, dramatic scenes, action sequences, descriptions of various locations, and much more. Having been a Hollywood screenwriter, I can assure you that entertaining an audience takes precedence over biblical accuracy or truth. Viewing just one or two of the episodes of A.D.: The Bible Continues proves my point. In what verse or verses do we find Caiaphas’s wife (referred to as Leah on screen)? What about the father-daughter relationship between Peter and Maya—or perhaps you weren’t aware that Peter had a daughter and her name was Maya? If you’re familiar with the Bible, did it surprise you that Pilate escaped assassination…or that an attempt was even made? Or that Pilate and his wife were having marital problems? Or that he took it upon himself to execute one of the soldiers who guarded the burial tomb of Jesus? Pilate is a central figure in A.D. (which is about the book of Acts) and yet he appears nowhere in the Book of Acts. Mary, the mother of Jesus is referred to only once in the Book of Acts. It says simply that she prayed with the disciples (Acts:1:14). Yet she has many lines of dialogue in A.D., thanks to the screenwriters.
“Artistic license” may be acceptable when a popular book is translated to the screen (though some might weep over what Hollywood did to their favorite novel), but it’s hardly nitpicking to object to seeing this being done to God’s Word, though too few evangelical pastors and leaders seem to be as concerned as Paul was in Acts:20:28-32. Speculation, reading between the lines, and using one’s imagination all involve the flesh of man and contribute nothing to our understanding of the Scriptures. At best, they involve a slipping away from God’s truth (Hebrews:2:1); at worst, they lead to another Jesus and a false gospel.
You say, “We all know that the Bible doesn’t give us every detail of what happened and what was said or thought by various people. We often try to come up with that on our own. Are we supposed to…never make any speculations or suppositions?” Speculations and suppositions are human guesses, so they can give us no assurance in our attempts to understand God’s Word. There is little doubt that some passages of Scripture are more difficult than others to comprehend. But as we diligently read through the entire Bible we often find related verses that give further explanation. Scripture indeed interprets Scripture, and when we study God’s Word with that truth in mind we can be confident that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, rather than our own thoughts, is guiding us.
God has given His Word by His Holy Spirit to those who believe in Him. The Holy Spirit also enables believers to understand His Word. To the degree that we turn to our own ways in trying to understand Him, we have drifted away from Him by that same degree. The flesh profits nothing (John:6:63). Please consider again the excerpt of the poem by William Blane that I added to the special email we sent back in April. We have published it in full on page three of this edition. It was one that Dave Hunt repeated often:
They come from God if they be right,
If true they lead to Him;
But who would shun the noonday light
To grope in shadows dim?
And who would leave the Fountain Head
To drink the muddy stream,
Where men have mixed what God hath said
With every dreamer’s dream?